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Stage Dolls - Always

posted 25 Jul 2011, 06:16 by Paul Woodward

(AOR Heaven)

Norwegian AOR-ster’s Stage Dolls return with their first studio album in 6 years - “Always”. I’m a huge fan of the band, especially the “Stage Dolls” & “Stripped” albums, so I was frothing at the mouth with anticipation for this new album!

Unfortunately I found the album as a whole disappointing, not a bad album - far from it - but very average.  Maybe my expectations were too high?  Some of the songs are lacking in hooks and memorable choruses, so when you’re listening to the album they fail to grab your attention and just pass you by.  The sound of the album is very in keeping with what you’d expect from the Stage Dolls, with perhaps a little more maturity in the song writing.  The album is an out-and-out AOR album, but I do hear some modern country influences in a few of the songs. In my interview with Torstein Flakne (Vocals/Guitar) he mentions his love of Tom Petty and that style of Americana, and I think the country-vibe I hear comes from that influence.

I think given the style of some of the songs whilst they have no impact or urgency on CD, they may well come to life in the live forum. The band are well known for consistently putting on great live performances and with their wealth of experience I can imagine songs like “Taillights” and “Saturday Night” being big swaggering crowd pleasers.

For me two songs stand out head and shoulders above the rest, and are, in my opinion, essential AOR tunes which have to be checked-out and show what a quality band the Stage Dolls still are!  “Highways Open” (which I think could storm America’s country charts given its influences) is a great slab of sing-a-long AOR with an extremely memorable chorus, definitely another classic!  “Eye of My Heart” is a perfect AOR ballad, which has some really nice guitar work, an extremely memorable chorus and some killer harmonies. In fact one of the stand-out performances on this album are the harmonies and backing vocals provided on many of the songs.

When I heard lead track “Always” I was a little under-whelmed and hoped that the rest of the album would be a lot better. The track has grown on me over several spins and is actually not too bad a rocker, which could have been lifted straight from the “Stripped” album. With its big Thunder-like riff I suspect this track will be even better live! “Raining on a Sunny Day” does exactly what it says on the tin; it really does make you think of looking out your windows on rainy days, with its melancholic and beautiful melodies. Not a classic, but a pretty decent laid back atmospheric AOR ballad. “My Strangest Friend” is a bit of an oddball, indeed a little bit strange; I didn’t like it a first but I have come around to it. This song shows most predominately out of all the tracks on offer what I hear as a country vibe, maybe it’s the strong acoustic vibe and the extremely beautiful female backing vocals which have that country edge.  Wonder if this song arrived in Norway via Nashville?

Regardless of what I personally think of the album, I do hear enough here to know this will go down extremely well with established Stage Doll’s fans as it continues true to the band's legacy. An album which I think may produce some new live favourites as well! Definitely worth checking out for all AOR fans even if it’s only for those couple of songs which shine with Stage Doll’s brilliance.

Track Listing: Always / Raining On A Sunny Day / Rollin’ / Highway’s Open / Eye Of My Heart / Better Off Pretty / Taillights / Saturday Night / Where The Blacktop Ends / My Strangest Friend

Album Rating:

Woody’s Essential Track: Highway’s Open

Always is OUT NOW from all good retailers and